Why Wordless Picture Books are Important

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Why Wordless Picture Books are Important

Why does everyone go on about how wonderful wordless picture books are? Well, to be upfront, I am one of those people! And this post is all about why I think wordless books are important to children’s literacy development!
Wordless picture books are often quickly dismissed as being too easy. But they are a powerful tool in developing literacy skills. Understanding a wordless story involves interpreting the illustrations as there is no text to rely on. This promotes comprehension, vocabulary, and listening skills and an understanding of story structure and character development.

Find Out Why Wordless Picture Books are Important

Comprehension Skills

A well-rounded reader needs good comprehension skills. This includes remembering what has already happened and predicting what may happen next. This is difficult for many children. 

Wordless books are great for encouraging a child’s ability to infer what is happening in the story. With no words for guidance the reader has to figure this out for themselves, using only the illustrations and their imagination. This not only develops comprehension but an overall understanding of story structure and plot. 

Children need to practice retelling stories in interesting and exciting ways. When reading out loud wordless book you can model storytelling techniques, including inferring, making connections, predicting, and questioning the author’s choices. With consistent practice, their independent responses will become more natural and detailed. 

Give children time to look through or discuss the book before they retell. If you rush the process, they will miss important visual clues and could misunderstand the story.

Confidence and Independence

Building confidence is important to develop a child’s love of reading. Wordless picture books are wonderful for strengthening independence, particularly for young readers. A child feels confidence and pride in reading a book independently. 

Teachers see every day how hard learning to read is! Encouraging a child to pick up another book often depends on their last reading experience. It is important for children to have positive reading experiences. Wordless books give children a break from decoding and the opportunity to focus on the story itself. 

As you can imagine a wordless book is beneficial for any child of any age and any reading ability. For those children who struggle with reading they can enjoy a wordless book independently.

They are perfect for older children who need to work on their comprehension or storytelling skills. For younger children who are new to reading, a lack of text means they can focus on the illustrations, the story and the characters.

There are so many wordless books they are works of art in their own right and don’t look “too young” or “too easy”.

Verbal Skills and Discussion

Wordless books invite children to become an active participant in the story. Following up on a child’s questions helps make connections and increases understanding. As there are no words the flow of the story is not interrupted as it would when reading text. They encourage children to tell a story rather than reading the given text or listening to an adult read.

Model how to describe the plot, setting and characters. You can discuss cause and effect, conflict resolution, add dialogue and elaborate on what is happening. Encourage imagination by thinking of new ways to retell the story on each new reading.

Asking questions teaches children that clues to the story are not only in text but also the illustrations. Here are a few questions to get you started.
  • What is happening?
  • Tell me about the characters. What are their emotions?
  • What is the character thinking? How do you know?
  • What is the character’s goal/mission? How will they achieve their goal?
  • Why did the character make this choice? Could they have made a better choice?
  • What is the character going to do next? How will their actions effect the story?
  • What do you think the character is saying? Why?
  • What is the setting of the story? What do you notice about the setting?
  • What will happen next? How do you know?

Acquisition of New Vocabulary

Storytelling increases vocabulary and verbal skills. When discussing the story introduce new and more complex vocabulary. Describe illustrations, plots and characters actions and emotions in detail. As you introduce new words, children will incorporate them into their own language as they understand the context within which to use it.

When used with older children wordless books can be used in more complex ways, particularly when picking apart the illustrations. Discussing the illustrations will develop their vocabulary and language skills without the even realising!

Visual Appreciation

Illustrations convey emotions, story details and foreshadowing. And wordless books are a great way to establish an understanding of how blending words with art tells a story. 

Looking for clues within illustrations helps the reader interpret a the plot. Transferring this skill to books with text helps children read unknown words independently. Take the time to pour over the illustrations, removing the pressure some children feel when reading. Focusing on the illustrations makes additional reading different every time.

Story Structure and Sequencing

Wordless picture books lend themselves to developing storytelling skills. Examine the story structure together. Focus on the sequence of events, particularly the beginning, middle and end. 

Retelling improves as children understand that actions happen in a particular order affecting the outcome of the plot (cause and effect). Without the distraction of the text children will focus on the plot and make connections throughout the story.

Writing Skills

Storytelling and discussion influences independent writing. Once children feel comfortable doing something verbally they will start to incorporate it into their own writing.

Use wordless books as story starters for children to using independent writing activities. Children will incorporate ideas from their reading experiences, such as vocabulary, sentence structure, grammar, story structure, plot and character development.

As a teacher, I used wordless picture books to inspire creative writing. Children can retell the story, add character dialogue and write an epilogue or a prelude. Using books as inspiration will help those children who struggle to develop creative ideas. Using books as inspiration will help those children who struggle to develop creative ideas

I hope you now understand my passion for wordless books! They should be a staple of any classroom, library or child’s bookshelf. Don’t dismiss they as easy because of the lack of text, they are so much more!
What are your favourite wordless picture books? Let me know in the comments.

Do you have any favourite picture books to promote positive friendships in your classroom or at home? Let me know in the comments below. It would be great to have a selection of recommended books to choose from when I update this post.

You can also check out other related posts on Children’s Library Lady below. Finally, you will find some more wordless book ideas below from Amazon.

Related Posts

Disclosure: There are affiliate links in this post. I may earn a small percentage of any purchases made. It won’t cost you anything!

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6 thoughts on “Why Wordless Picture Books are Important”

  1. Oh my gosh – there are SO many great uses for wordless picture books. Plus, inference is something so many older kiddos struggle with. Using these kinds of books from a young age and/or to help teach inference lessons to older students would be incredibly beneficial.

  2. I love this post! Wordless books are wonderful! It really does give them a chance to use their imagination because they don’t have to worry about the reading process it self and can focus on the story at hand. I like the idea of using them as a starting point for creative writing. I may have to try that!

  3. I’ve used wordless books before, but you’ve given me so many more ideas in this post! Now that I have a grandchild I’m excited at utilizing some of these new ideas. Thank you!

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